01-31-2019 Tri-City Area History Page

About my column Sometimes people ask me about the picture at the head of my column. They know the Paw Paw River… but the bridge is so strange. Well, it is the old iron bridge, no longer there. The picture is an “anachronism.” According to my Webster’s, this is a misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other. In other words, the picture never took place the way you see it. The old iron bridge out north of Hartford is the one I remember from my childhood. The dog, Toby, and I were sitting on the floor in our living room, and Marion took our picture. Then I superimposed them. This is a common practice now… in this day of computers. In fact, we cannot believe much we see or read on the internet. I hope what I write is an exception, because I work in a “virtual” office. In other words, I am not typing this at the Tri-City Record. I work from our living room… or wherever we happen to be. And I send my column to Editor Karl. I can also scan and send pictures to be used with the column, if I wish to. And when Karl and I shook hands in an oral contract for me to write this column… oh, so many years ago… I typed every one, sent it in, or took it to the office, and then Bonnie Bannen, or one of the other girls retyped it into the paper. That seems so long ago, and so cumbersome. In 1999 I bought my first computer. Becky’s Jim helped me pick it out. I was just smart enough to stay in the background and keep my mouth shut! Then we set it up on my desk, and he showed me its intricacies. In the first two days I made marvelous strides… I learned to turn it on and off! But after I got on the internet, I started emailing my copy in to Editor Karl. Now I am still doing it… and still using the same picture of Toby and me sitting by the old river bridge out north of Hartford. The picture really exemplifies what my column is about. Karl wanted me to write with a mostly Hartford slant, because The Record serves the communities of Coloma, Watervliet, and Hartford. He had Dorothy Stark Cannell to cover Coloma with her “Shingle Diggin’s” column, until her unfortunate decline in health. He and Annie handled much of the Watervliet news… and I was to do Hartford. The Paw Paw River stitches all of our communities together. In the picture, there we sit, contemplating infinity, or whatever we are contemplating. The dog is perfectly content… she is with me, there are exotic smells to sniff, and God’s in his Heaven… all’s right with the world. It is an ideal (and an idealized) situation. And, Dear Readers, that is sort of how I think of our storybook towns along the river. Perhaps I do treat the past as if it were burnished with a golden haze. For some reason I always remembered (and stored away) scenes of days gone by and the stories I heard. When I was small, I went everywhere with my dad. I kept quiet (as little kids were supposed to in those days) and soaked it all in. Whenever Dad headed out to the car, I dropped whatever I was doing and scrambled to get on those wheels. He was the only florist in Hartford, and he patronized our local businesses… because they patronized our greenhouses. I can remember that he bought gas, and had service work done, at every garage and gas station in turn. Later on when I was a gas pump jockey for Leonard Peirce at his big station on Hartford’s west side, he said, “For your car’s long life, you should pick a good place… then always use the same kind of oil when you have it changed.” He should have known… Leonard was one of the best mechanics Hartford ever saw. With my dad I went to Smith’s Lumber Yard… right where it is now. I sat in the little front office with him while he talked with Johnny Smith, and his dad, Ed Smith, who started the lumber yard and the stacks of boards out back, with new lumber smell. And also Ed Manning’s lumber yard out north of town just across the railroad tracks. And Markellie’s coal and feed business just south of those same tracks. Or perhaps The Gleaner Store and Olds Grocery on the south side of Main Street. My dad loved ‘rat trap cheese,’ which they kept under a huge glass bell on the counter. The grocer sliced off a sample for Dad to try, and he gave me some of it. There was also Salnave’s meat market on toward the east. My dad ordered a pound and a half of round steak and a half pound of pork, ground together so my mom could make one of her marvelous meat loaves. One day, grizzled old Ollie Salnave handed me a raw hot dog, saying, “Here, kid, try this!” I looked at my dad as I held the wiener, and he nodded OK. So I ate it right there… the only raw hot dog in my whole life! Oliver Salnave had a halo of white hair and a ruddy complexion… brought on, I believe, by a lifetime of bouts with old John Barleycorn. One Saturday night (when everyone came into town), as I was walking by, a bunch of guys were betting Ollie that he could not stand on his head on the sidewalk. Well, he did it… right in front of the store! Well… a stroll down memory lane, occasioned by thinking on the picture at the top of this column. So all of that was going on back in the day, and much more! I have examined but a few golden threads in the tapestry of our lives along the Paw Paw River in those storybook towns!

Mixing concrete for old U.S.12 west of Coloma, 1919 Fred A. Carter and his son, Clinton F. Carter, are among work crew. North Berrien Historical Museum is always interested in photos, stories or information sharing. The museum can be contacted at 269-468-3330 or by email to info@northberrienhistory.org. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma